Friends had to move its traditional Winter Solstice celebration from Shell Mound, where Hurricane Idalia damage and pier reconstruction made for too much disruption, to Cedar Key. Friends' president Dr. Ginessa Mahar welcomed many visitors who joined us at the park for hot tea, cookies, and a memorable presentation by Dr. Ken Sassaman, the Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor of Florida Archaeology at the University of Florida. It was warmer and less windy than the 2022 celebration!
Important, but Not Pretty, Work coming on the Grass Roads
Lower Suwannee NWR roadside and overhead clearing is expected to begin in 2024. The Refuge received funding to reclaim roads, clear roadsides, and overhead trees on 70 miles of our grass roads ("behind the locked yellow gates").
After 44 years of ecological succession the forest has regrown with a vengeance. We need to reclaim the right-of-ways primarily for ease of access with equipment, for prescribed fire safety, but also to increase grasses and flowering shrubs for pollinators.
Like many of you, we are sorry to see how bare this necessary clearing makes the right of ways, but we know that, like prescribed burning, the clearing work will make the forest healthier and better for wildlife and visitors.
While we encourage the contractors not to work during hunt seasons, they do have the prerogative to do so.
Any questions or concerns, call/text/email me at Andrew_Gude@fws.gov or 703.622.3896.
The 4th grade class from Anderson Elementary in Cross City headed to the Refuge on December 8 and enjoyed an exciting schedule provided by our amazing partners and volunteers. Every event is different, depending on the availability of station leaders, but they're always a blast.
Stationed next to the Refuge bat house, Shari Blissett-Clark of the Florida Bat Conservancy captivated the students with her live amBatsadors and bat knowledge.
The pollinator station with Jon Bremer and Cameron Zuck from the Florida Department of Agriculture's Division of Plant Industry, and Emily Kazan from FWS had a wide variety of pollinators to talk about. Hungry live caterpillars munched away on a variety of host plants while the experts described the variety of pollinator life from butterflies to flies.
To complement Ranger Vic's prescribed burn station, Ranger Jason Coates brought the Tiger Cat. Its huge masticating blades are used to cut fire breaks and manage understory growth on the Refuge.
Jeremy Geiger from the UF Nature Coast Biological Station returned with his popular collection of turtle shells, skulls, and two adorable live turtles.
Refuge volunteers, Robin Gallup and Mike Caulking, along with Friends volunteers John McPherson and Carol Lang led nature walks with observation bingo and leaf tracing.
Cristina Oliveria and Domenique Sorresso from UF had a hands-on archaeology station where the kids could touch all the artifacts.
Deputy Manager John Stark and Friends volunteer Sandra Milliner sparked the kids' imaginations at the carnivorous plant station. Scented stickers and crayons were available to create imaginary plants that lure insects for food. French fry traps sound like a winner to us!
Enjoy beautiful weather and make a difference on the Refuge.
We have ideas for one-time and short-term work projects, all we lack is a leader and a few volunteers. If you would like to take one of these ideas and make it happen, please contact us.